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Psalm 133

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Excellency of Brotherly Unity
MT Intro
A Song of Ascents,
of David
Blessed Unity of the People of God The Joys of Harmony in the Family In Praise of Living in Peace Brotherly Love
133:1-3 133:1 133:1-3 133:1-3 133:1
  133:2-3     133:2-3

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This brief Psalm is difficult to interpret because of its imagery that does not fit well together.

1. brothers - Aaron

2. Hermon - Zion

B. The theological purpose and historical period of this Psalm are unknown. Some see it as relating to

1. David's day (because of MT title) when Israel and Judah were reunited (cf. 2 Samuel 5, i.e., the United Monarchy)

2. the post-exilic period when Israel (Mt. Hermon) and Judah (Mt. Zion) are connected again (i.e., Cyrus' decree, 538 b.c.)

3. a Psalm that asserts the common fellowship of all levels of Jewish society (i.e., special anointing oil runs down Aaron's beard onto "all" his clothing)

4. a way of asserting God's desire for all His people to experience

a. abundant life now

b. eternal life one day

5. all blessings "descend" (used 3 times - BDB 432, KB 434, Qal participles) from God

a. covenant people (brothers)

b. unity (Aaron's clothing)

c. blessings (i.e., dew)

d. eternal life (Ps. 133:3c)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 133:1-3
 1Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
 For brothers to dwell together in unity!
 2It is like the precious oil upon the head,
 Coming down upon the beard,
 Even Aaron's beard,
 Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
 3It is like the dew of Hermon
 Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
 For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.

133:1 "how good and how pleasant" These adjectives (BDB 373 II and BDB 653 I) describe the intended experience of humans created in God's image to be a community.

▣ "brothers" Exactly to whom this refers is uncertain, see Contextual Insights, B.

▣ "dwell" This noun (BDB 443 I) is related to the verb (DB 442) which means "to sit" (i.e., a fellowship meal), "to remain" (i.e., abide with), or "to dwell" (i.e., a place to live). It can be literal or metaphorical here.

133:2

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"the precious oil"
TEV"the precious anointing oil"
NJB, JPSOA"a fine oil"
REB, LXX"fragrant oil"

The adjective (BDB 373 II) is the same one used in Ps. 133:1 (i.e., "good").

The noun "oil" (BDB 1032) can mean "fat" or "olive oil." Because of the mentioning of Aaron's anointing in Ps. 133:2c-d, this refers to his special inaugural commissioning service (cf. Exod. 29:7; 30:25,30; Lev. 8:12; 21:10).

The High Priest of Israel was both a cultic figure and eschatological Messianic figure (cf. Zechariah 3-4). Therefore, he could symbolize

1. the unity of God's OT people

2. the unity of all people made in God's image

 

NASB, NKJV"the edge of his robes"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB, JPSOA"over the collar of his robes"
REB"the collar of his vestments"
LXX"upon the fringe of his clothing"

The meaning of the noun (BDB 804) is the interpretive issue. Literally it means "mouth." It refers here to Exodus 28, which denotes a special collar of the High Priest's robe/ephod that cannot be torn (i.e., a Hebrew symbol of grief). The interpretive question is "how much oil was used?" Is it a symbol of unity (i.e., ran over all his priestly attire)? Is this Psalm about the unity of groups of Israelites/Jews or all mankind (i.e., Ps. 133:3c)?

Just a note, there are two possible roots from which this word "collar" could be taken.

1. garment, clothing - מד (BDB 551)

2. measure - מדד (BDB 551)\

 

133:3 How is Mt. Hermon related to Mt. Zion?

1. unity of the Promised Land

2. unity of the tribes of Israel

3. unity of all people in an eschatological setting (i.e., does Ps. 133:3 mean "life" here and now or "life" in an eschatological setting?)

 

▣ "dew of Hermon" The dew on this highest mountain, easily seen from northern Israel, was very heavy and became an idiom for abundance. Mt. Zion, with YHWH's blessings on their unity, would have similar abundant moisture.

▣ "forever" This Hebrew term (BDB 761, see Special Topic: Forever ['olam]) must be interpreted in a specific context. The theological issue involves the OT sense of a possible afterlife. There is no doubt that by progressive revelation (i.e., the NT) the Bible as a whole clearly affirms this truth, but did the OT? I think so (i.e., Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27) but not always (i.e., Ps. 23:5; 27:4-6). However, even in the OT there is a hint of hope.

1. Enoch (Gen. 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2) are taken to heaven

2. in Psalms, cf. Ps. 1:3; 49:15; 73:24

3. in Isaiah, cf. Isa. 26:19

4. in Daniel, cf. Dan. 12:1-4